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Assist Domestic Violence Shelters: Send Care Packages

by Bronwyn Ashbaker and Beth Hering
The Challenge

Domestic violence shelters are there to do just that: Shelter the victims of domestic violence. Every nine seconds, a woman is physically abused by her husband. In the course of a year, an estimated 1.3 million women are the victims of intimate partner-related physical abuse, making the need for refuge overwhelming.

When a victim of domestic violence makes the decision to leave her abusive environment, the time it takes to build up enough courage to do so can take many years or mere moments. Often, a battered woman has only a tiny window of opportunity for flight from danger and will make it to a women's shelter with the clothes on her back, children if she has them, and not much more.

Rarely is the victim of domestic violence able to throw together an overnight bag; packing deodorant isn't a priority when she makes her escape. Finding herself on the run, a battered woman may grab basics for her children but will leave her own things behind, including her toothbrush.

In emergency situations, the battered woman and her children may be taken to a safe house, or family violence shelter, where they are effectively hidden for 24 to 48 hours, depending on the training of the staff and the security of the actual house. In that time, victims of domestic violence can take the first tentative steps to a new life, but it can be daunting. A battered woman comes with a battered life to repair and rebuild.

Providing care packages for women who have escaped from domestic violence can make a huge difference to them for relatively little effort on your part.

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  • Donate basic hygiene items – such as soap, shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, sanitary napkins, deodorant, new underwear and socks -- to domestic violence shelters. Basic hygiene products are like gold to a woman starting over. Being able to have your own soap may seem like a small thing, but it can provide big comfort to a battered woman who just left everything behind and is trying to adjust to new surroundings in a woman's shelter.
  • Supermarkets consistently offer two-for-one sales, and retailers like Costco sell goods in bulk. Donations accumulate quickly when you make a habit of setting aside one item from each set. Likewise, collect unused hotel toiletries and health and beauty samples. Before you know, you'll have accumulated enough items to create care packages for more than one battered woman.
  • Taking it to the next level, ask co-workers to throw things in a handy box or pile each time they go shopping. To make it an event, get them all together at lunch once a month to sort items and create groupings with one of everything. The wrapping doesn't have to be fancy; Ziploc bags and shoeboxes are fine.
  • Get neighbors together for a potluck where everybody brings a dish to share as well as three hygiene items for donating.
  • Call your local police or sheriff's department to locate the nearest domestic violence shelter. Or, the police may refer you to an agency that accepts care-package items on behalf of a safe house, which must maintain a secret address to protect its charges.
  • When contacting the police, make sure to dial a non-emergency line. They deal with domestic violence regularly and will know how to put you in touch with the right people. If you call beforehand to let them know what you're bringing and for whom, it will only take a few minutes to drop off your donations.

To locate a woman's shelter on-line, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or click on your state on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' web site.

For more information about domestic violence and what you can do to help its victims, visit the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, the National Domestic Violence Hotline, or Futures without Violence.

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